Ott Tänak took a firm grip on second place at Corsica linea - Tour de Corse when he stormed to fastest time through Sunday morning’s marathon 55km speed test from Vero to Sarrola-Carcopino.
Stage info: SS11
Vero – Sarrola-Carcopino, 55.17km
Sunday’s opener is the longest of the rally and it is virtually all new. It climbs initially among pine forests to the Tartavella pass, the high point of the event at 885m. A twisty downhill road leads to Azzana bridge before the test passes through Lopigna, Arro and Ambiegna villages. After negotiating the Clos d’Alzeto vineyard and Sari d’Orcino village, the final 7km include the climb and descent from the Sarzoggio pass - the only section retained from 2017.
The Estonian, who started the final leg just a tenth of a second clear of Thierry Neuville, was 13.2sec quicker than the Belgian through the narrow and twisty lanes north of Ajaccio.
“I couldn’t push like maximum. There is a little bit more understeer so I couldn’t push like I did yesterday but I was very clean,” said the Toyota Yaris driver.
Neuville was lucky to finish in one piece after hitting a kerb and taking a big chunk out of a rear wheel, and the same kerb provided heartbreak for Esapekka Lappi.
The Finn, whose pace yesterday thrust him into the battle for second, dropped almost two minutes after stopping to change a puncture. “I lost the rear at one corner on cold tyres, hit a kerb and damaged a wheel. My mistake fully,” said Lappi, who plunged from third to seventh.
Leader Sébastien Ogier eased to fourth fastest time in his Ford Fiesta and heads into the final live TV Power Stage with a 31.0sec advantage over Tänak.
“Job done so far, but we still have to drive the Power Stage and if we can grab some points that would be good. Five points maybe not when we have a victory that we have to take, but a few points hopefully,” said Ogier.
Dani Sordo and Elfyn Evans continued their intense fight, which was now for fourth place following Lappi’s problem. The pair were split by only three-tenths in the stage in Evans’ favour and Sordo will start the final test with a 2.8sec margin over the Welshman’s Fiesta.
There was a big note of concern for Sordo. His Hyundai i20 was leaking a considerable amount of oil from the front left as he pulled away from the finish.
Neither Jari-Matti Latvala nor Bryan Bouffier restarted following yesterday’s retirements. The roll cage in Latvala’s Toyota Yaris could not be repaired after his accident, while the engine damage to Bouffier’s Ford Fiesta proved terminal.